FATA is Pakistan’s Fallujah: B Raman

22 08 2008

Source: rediff.com
August 22, 2008

At least 78 persons, most of them civilian workers in a cluster of arms production factories located in the heavily-protected cantonment area of Wah, about 30 km from Islamabad [Images], were reported to have been killed on the afternoon of August 21 when two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside different gates of the factories during shift change.

The ease with which they penetrated this high security area would indicate either that they had accomplices in the security staff or that they were workers of one of the factories who had no difficulty in entering the complex. If suicide bombers could penetrate such a high-security area with so much ease, it should be equally easy for other terrorists to penetrate Pakistan’s nuclear establishments one day. The expression ‘high security’ has ceased to have any meaning in Pakistan’s sensitive establishments because of the penetration by the jihadi elements.

This is the third suicide attack in the non-tribal areas since the elected coalition government headed by Yousef Raza Gilani assumed office on March 18. The previous two targeted the Danish embassy in Islamabad (June 2) in protest against the publication by some Danish newspapers of caricatures of the Holy Prophet, and policemen who were returning to their stations after performing duty at the Lal Masjid in which a meeting was held (July 6) in memory of those killed during the commando raid in July last year.

The blasts in Wah came in the wake of the threat issued by the Tehrik-e-Taliban [Images] Pakistan to resume terrorist attacks in the non-tribal areas if the government did not stop the on-going military operations in the Bajaur Agency, where many leaders and cadres of Al Qaeda [Images] and the Afghan Taliban have reportedly taken shelter. Since the threat was issued by the TTP, the Pakistan Army [Images] has not been much active on the ground in the Bajaur Agency either by itself or through the paramilitary Frontier Corps. However, helicopter gunships of the army and the planes of the air force have stepped up their air strikes in response to the US pressure to neutralise the terrorist infrastructure in the area, which was making the NATO forces in Afghanistan bleed.

Making a statement in the NWFP provincial Assembly on August 21, Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti said thousands of foreign militants were present in the Bajaur Agency and claimed they would have captured the area if the military operation had been delayed for a couple of days.

According to him, in the past, the two traditional pillars of power in the tribal belt were the political administration and the Malik (tribal chief) system. He said a third pillar, inducted into the area during the 1980s, had emerged stronger than the traditional pillars. He added that some called this third pillar the Mujahideen [Images], some others called it the Taliban and yet some others termed it Al Qaeda. It was this third pillar which was now dominating the tribal belt.

According to him, there cannot be peace in the NWFP without peace in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and there cannot be peace in FATA without peace in Afghanistan. The ground situation in Afghanistan, FATA and the NWFP was closely inter-connected. He said before launching the military operation in the Bajaur Agency, the government had sent a delegation for talks with the local tribals, but there were thousands of Arabs, Uzbeks and Chechens in the area who are unaware of the Pashtun traditions and customs and came in the way of peace.

In retaliation for the air strikes, the TTP blew up an air force bus on Kohat Road in the NWFP on August 12 killing 13 persons, including seven administrative personnel of the PAF, and followed this up on August 19 with an explosion outside the district headquarters hospital of Dera Ismail Kahan in the NWFP, in which 32 persons, many of them Shia outdoor patients, were killed. The TTP claimed responsibility for both these attacks and projected them as being in retaliation for the continuing air strikes in the Bajaur Agency.

While the targeting of the PAF bus is explained by the anger of the TTP over the air strikes, its targeting of Shia outdoor patients is attributed by well-informed police sources to its strong suspicion that the Shias of the NWFP and the Kurram Agency of FATA have been collaborating with the Pakistan Army in its operations against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Over 100 persons — more Shias than Sunnis — have been killed in continuing Shia-Sunni clashes in the Kurram Agency for the last 10 days.

While the attacks of August 12 and 19 were in the tribal areas, the attacks in Wah on August 21 were in a non-tribal area. The TTP has already admitted responsibility for the suicide attacks in Wah and warned of similar attacks on military installations in other cities including Lahore [Images], Karachi, Islamabad and Rawalpindi if the government does not stop the air strikes in the Bajaur Agency and withdraw the Army from the Agency and the Swat Valley of the NWFP. The government has to take these threats seriously in view of the repeatedly demonstrated capability of the TTP to strike at military targets in non-tribal areas since the commando action in the Lal Masjid of Islamabad from July 10 to 13, 2007.

The anger of the TTP, the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda against the Pakistan Army has not subsided as a result of the resignation of Pervez Musharraf [Images] from the post of president on August 18. They hold Musharraf as well as the army responsible for the commando action in Lal Masjid and for the military operations in the tribal belt, which they view as undertaken to protect Western lives and in support of the NATO operations in Afghanistan. They are demanding not only the stoppage of all air strikes in the tribal belt and the withdrawal of the army from there, but also the stoppage of any co-operation with the US and other NATO forces against the Afghan Taliban.

It is only a question of time before the anti-Musharraf and anti-Army anger for their co-operation with the US broadens to include anti-Asif Zardari anger for the continuing co-operation with the US. The terrorists view Zardari as no different from Musharraf and as much an apostate as Musharraf. They are convinced that the air strikes and ground operations in the Bajaur Agency have been agreed to by Zardari and Gilani as a quid pro quo for the role of the US and the UK in persuading Musharraf to quit as president.

FATA is emerging as Pakistan’s Fallujah. After the US occupation of Iraq, Fallujah became the launching pad of terrorist strikes in the rest of Iraq — whether by Al Qaeda or by ex-Baathist resistance fighters. Only after the US ruthlessly pacified Fallujah and destroyed the terrorist launching pads there, did it start making progress in its counter-insurgency operations in the rest of the Sunni areas of Iraq.

The NATO forces will continue to bleed in Afghanistan and the jihadi virus will continue to spread in Pakistan unless and until FATA is similarly pacified through ruthless application of force. The Pakistan Army has not demonstrated either the will or the capability to do so. A more active role by the NATO forces under US leadership is necessary — either covertly or openly. A strategy for a Fallujah-style pacification of FATA is called for — with the co-operation of the Pakistan Army if possible and without it, if necessary.

The USSR was defeated by the Afghan Mujahideen in the 1980s because of the reluctance of the Soviet troops to attack their sanctuaries in FATA and NWFP. India has been unable to prevail over cross-border jihadi terrorism because of the reluctance of its leadership to attack their sanctuaries in Pakistani territory. The US is unlikely to prevail over the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan unless it is prepared to destroy their infrastructure in FATA.

Deniable Predator air strikes by the US intelligence agencies on suspected terrorist hide-outs in the FATA have been increasing and some of them have been effective in neutralising well-known Al Qaeda operatives. But air strikes alone will not be able to turn the tide against the jihadis. Effective hit and withdraw raids into FATA in the form of hot pursuit should be the next step. The longer it is delayed the more will be the bleeding.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retired), Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, New Delhi [Images], and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com)

B Raman

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‘Chinese success in Olympics will be our success’

17 08 2008

Source Rediff.com

August 07, 2008
On Monday, August 4, when 16 border police guards of China’s ministry of public security were killed and many others injured when two unidentified terrorists attacked their barracks near Kashgar in the Xinjiang province of China, B Raman got a telephone call in Chennai from a Chinese think-tank advising China’s Olympics [Images] committee. Raman, India’s foremost expert on terrorism, visited Chengdu and Shanghai recently to advise the Chinese on the threat to the Olympics.

On the eve of the inauguration of the planet’s biggest sporting spectacle, Raman discusses the prospects of the evil of terrorism in Beijing [Images] in an interview with Editor Sheela Bhatt.

Do you think there is a possibility of some kind of terrorism in China during the Olympics?

There is a medium to high probability of acts of violence, including terrorism, by Uighur elements not only in the Xinjiang province, but also against Chinese nationals and interests during the Olympics in the Central Asian Republics, Pakistan and Turkey.

The Uighurs do not have a demonstrated capability for major acts of terrorism in Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai, where the main Olympic events will be held, but have a high capability in Xinjiang, the CARs and Pakistan. The main threat, if any, will be from the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan, which operates from North Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan.

On July 25, 2008, a private security consultancy agency of the US claimed to have intercepted a three-minute Olympics-specific video message by one Sayfallah, who claimed to belong to an organisation called the Turkistan Islamic Party in which he threatened acts of violence directed against the Olympics. He claimed that his organisation was responsible for the explosions in buses in Shanghai in May and in Kunming in Yunnan in July. He warned that his group is planning to attack Chinese cities ‘using previously unused methods’.

He also said: ‘This is our last warning to China and the rest of the world. The viewers and athletes, especially those who are Muslim, who plan to go to the Olympics should change their plans and not go to China. The Turkistan Islamic Party plans military attacks on people, offices, arenas, and other activities that are connected to the Chinese Olympic Games.’

Images: China ready to deliver safe Games

This message, even if its purpose is assumed to be to create fear and nervousness, shows that sections of Uighurs in Xinjiang as well as in Pakistan, the CARs and Turkey have been thinking of some incidents before and during the Olympics to draw attention to their cause. Likely threats from them have already been taken seriously by the Chinese authorities and have been factored into in their security planning.

Chinese concerns have been magnified by the attack on border police guards in Kashgar in Xinjiang province on August 4 in which 16 police guards were killed by two Uighurs of the area. Apart from diversionary attacks on Chinese nationals and interests, the other dangers are hijacking of Chinese planes and kidnapping of Chinese diplomats posted in neighbouring countries.

Is the Chinese government doing enough to understand the issue? Are Chinese leaders taking action?

Yes. The Chinese have done whatever they can to prevent acts of terrorism. They have taken into account various contingencies that could arise such as the hijacking of a plane and trying to crash it into the stadium, attacks on athletes and their places of stay, attacks on soft targets like the public transport system etc.

They have thoroughly studied the various scenarios that could arise and the scenarios that actually arose in the past, such as the kidnapping and murder of some Israeli athletes by the Black September group during the Munich Olympics in 1972 and the explosion in Atlanta in the US in 1996 by an irrational individual during the Atlanta Olympics, and factored the lessons into their security planning.

Which are the groups who have a significant presence In China?

The Chinese apprehensions mainly focus on the IMET and other Uighur groups, the Falun Gong and the supporters of the Dalai Lama [Images]. In my view, the highest threat will be from the Uighurs and the pro-Uighur groups in Pakistan like the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Union, which is another Uzbek group, Al Qaeda [Images], the Taliban [Images] and Pakistani jihadi organisations.

While the anger of the Uighurs is against the Chinese because of their alleged suppression of Uighurs in Xinjiang, the others will be more interested in exploiting the gathering of thousands of athletes and hundreds of thousands of tourists in Beijing to watch the Olympics to attack teams from the US, Israel and Denmark. The anger against Denmark is particularly intense because of the publication of cartoons of the Holy Prophet by some Danish newspapers in 2005.

Are the athletes safe? Which countries have a higher risk?

The Chinese have assured all participating countries that their security will be very tight and that they will be protected. However, terrorism is a very unpredictable threat and hence one has to keep one’s fingers crossed. While some nervousness is natural, one should not allow this to come in the way of one’s participation. The international community should wish the Chinese well and help them in preventing any threat from materialising.

A terrorism-free Beijing Olympics will be an important contribution to the global fight against terrorism.

Don’t miss Rediff.com‘s coverage of the Beijing Olympics!

I am praying with all the intensity I can command that the Olympics should be totally successful and that the Chinese should succeed in preventing any violent incident. The highest risk will be to Denmark, the US and Israel in that order.

Do you think IMET or the Uighur movement is determined to spoil the Olympics?

The Olympics will provide a global audience. The Uighurs are determined not to miss this opportunity to publicise their anger against the Chinese. So too the Falung Gong. Some sections of Tibetan youth too wanted to exploit the occasion, but His Holiness the Dalai Lama has strongly advised them against doing anything which might embarrass or humiliate the Chinese. Unfortunately, neither the Uighurs nor the Falun Gong have a leader with the moral calibre of His Holiness. So, there is no one to advise them to exercise restraint. They can be irrational and unpredictable.

What kind of advice will you give the International Olympic Committee?

I was invited by the Chinese to make a presentation on likely threats to Olympics security at Chengdu in Sichuan in August last year and at Shanghai in May. We had very detailed discussions on various possible scenarios and they have been closely following my articles on the subject.

My advice to them will be: Be well-informed, be alert, be prepared for any contingency and avoid adding to the anger of those against Beijing by using harsh words against them. Be also on the look out for threats from angry individual Muslims not belonging to any organisation, who might get into the teams from the Islamic world participating in the Olympics.

China is the third Asian country to host the Olympics after Japan [Images] (Tokyo) and South Korea (Seoul), but neither Tokyo nor Seoul had to hold the Olympics under such difficult circumstances as Beijing, when the world is facing such serious threats from terrorism. Greece faced similar difficulties and threats during the Athens Olympics of 2004, which were held three years after 9/11 and after the US-led military operations against Al Qaeda and the Taliban had started in Afghanistan and one year after the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. All the NATO countries rallied to the assistance of the Greek authorities to ensure that there was no threat to the Athens Olympics.

The Beijing Olympics, which is the second after 9/11, faces the same level of threats as the one at Athens. The Chinese have received excellent international cooperation, but they do not have the same technological capability against terrorism as the NATO countries. They have spared no pains and no expenditure to ensure the success of the Games.

The entire Chinese people, their professionals, their security forces, their scientists have rallied together to make the Beijing Games an occasion to remember. Only sick minds will wish ill of them at this juncture.

At the end of my visit to Shanghai in May, an important personality had hosted a lunch for me. In my toast, I said: “In India, we all without exception want you to succeed and want the Beijing Olympics to be a memorable success. We want to hold the Olympics in New Delhi [Images] one day. We will learn from you how to organise a spectacular Olympics.” I could see everybody at the lunch was touched.

We are all Chinese today. Chinese success will be our success. Chinese pride will be our pride.